Anxiety is a liar - All the best lies contain some truth
Hi my name is Shiona I’m 29 years old and I have, had and do suffer from anxiety. I hate to refer to it that way, to me it makes it sound so permanent when actually I don’t believe it has to be. I have struggled with anxiety of varying degrees from about the age of 9. Until I experienced it as an adult I wouldn't have even called it anxiety. Mine is always about being sick, in particular fainting. The annoying thing about that is anxiety causes the very symptoms I am anxious about, it’s a self-perpetuating apprehension. I have been on a long journey exploring my anxiety, and anxiety in general. I would love to share my learnings and more importantly highlight the hope in what can feel really hopeless.
I want to start by saying anxiety doesn't make you a lesser person or weak. Anxiety in itself is a normal emotion, it’s a natural reaction and we are designed to feel it. Just some do more severely and uncontrollably than others. What you should be anxious about and what you shouldn't is very much dictated by our experiences. For example, fainting would be an unpleasant experience for anyone, so to dislike it is normal, but something taught me that it was more than that.
When I was 2 years old my mum was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. In the years that followed the hospital became like a second home and seeing my mum unconscious, or taken sick in public or at home became “normal”. When I was aged 9 I went and spent a night at a friend’s house and we had a great time. In the evening my friend’s mum made us a roast dinner. I remember smelling the gravy and thinking how good it smelt, and the house felt so warm and homely. When dinner was ready we both went into the kitchen. By the time I got to the table, I just felt dizzy and sick. I remember thinking “how do I make myself feel better” while looking down at my plate, staring blankly at my golden roast potatoes. The next thing I know my friend's mum is shrieking around me, it didn't take me long to realise I had fainted. In the days that followed, without even realising it, I applied all the lessons of risk, instability and fear I had learnt from my experiences with my mum to myself, to my life and I was no longer just a spectator. At first, my anxiety was just when I went to my friend's houses for dinner and I sat at the dinner table. I taught myself how to eat enough to look like I was fine, but slow enough that I could recover from the overwhelming desire to run out of the room, find a dark corner and curl up in a tight ball away from the dizziness, sickness and desire to disappear. I set myself rules like, if I'm sat by the door I can get out easily. Over time it progressed and I would assess the risk level in a house the second I walked in the door, and then I was pre-empting the risk of anxiety before I got there. Over time I couldn't remember really where it started or what I was actually scared of, I just knew fear and anxiety. This perfectly highlights the principle that anxiety can only cause more anxiety, fear can only cause more fear, and sadness only causes more sadness.
It may be true that anxiety can aggravate more anxiety and so on, but that must also mean that joy can spark more joy, love can inspire more love and hope can influence more hope. This means that you only need to find one thing you love, one thing that gives you joy, one thing that gives you hope and that one thing brings more. The trick about anxiety is that it is based on legitimately bad things or fears, so it's really hard to just tell yourself that it's not true because that thing you fear could happen, it is real. But anxiety is a liar. Anxiety tells you that that fear is the only possibility that anxiety, fear and sadness are your only options and therefore the only future options are more anxiety, fear and sadness, but that is a lie. The truth is we have a choice. There is another way, there is another path we can take.
Now this change is easier said than done, and my intention with this blog entry is not to tell you that you have another choice so start making it, not at all. It is more to assure you that there is hope in this journey, that you don't have to do this pattern forever. I will be doing further blogs that break this down more, share more of my experience, some of the facts and some great tools. So for now just know that yesterday doesn't dictate your today and today doesn't determine your tomorrow, every day is a new day and a fresh start, and fresh hope for better.